ARLINGTON, Texas -- Everything is bigger in Texas, especially high school football. That lesson was taught to us once again at Sunday's The Opening regional at Lamar High School.

Former A&M students file lawsuit

March, 12, 2015
Mar 12
1:38
PM ET

MARSHALL, Texas -- Former Texas A&M University students have filed a lawsuit against the 12th Man Foundation, seeking to protect their ticketing and seating rights in the school's $485 million expansion of its stadium.

Reports say that the lawsuit accuses the foundation, which is overseeing the re-seating at the stadium, of reneging on endowment agreements in an effort to get more money out of longtime donors.

The lawsuit also seeks to represent holders of about 450 donor agreements that account for about 1,700 stadium seats at Kyle Field. Endowment agreements allow donors to receive long-term rights to prime football tickets and parking rights near the stadium. 

Mark Riordan, vice president of marketing and communications for the foundation, said the group will not comment pending litigation.


(Read full post)


D.X. Bible LetterCourtesy of Mark F. Barnes and Harrison J. Allen

Nearly a century before Kevin Sumlin introduced the Swagcopter and Twitter hashtags to College Station, Texas A&M was still at the cutting edge of the recruiting game.

Harrison J. Allen, whose late great grandfather, Dr. Richard Henry "Chicken" Harrison Jr., played for Texas A&M as early as 1917, recently discovered a recruiting letter that then-Aggies coach Dana X. Bible sent to Harrison.

Written Aug. 20, 1919, Bible wrote to Harrison in hopes he would return to the A&M football team for the 1919 season. Allen said Harrison played for the Aggies in 1917 but not in 1918 as many members of the team served the United States in World War I. Harrison served in both World War I and World War II, and Allen said it is his understanding, though he's not 100 percent certain, that 1918 was one of his years of service.

Every one is expected to put politics, business and even their best girl aside and report September 15th, for duty at College Station.

- 1919 Texas A&M recruiting letter

In the letter -- which Allen found in a scrapbook Harrison compiled in the early 1960s -- Bible requests that Harrison report for training camp and says that "Every one is expected to put politics, business, and even their best girl aside and report September 15th, for duty at College Station."

Allen, a 2011 Texas A&M graduate, said Harrison played quarterback, halfback, defense and drop-kicked field goals for the Aggies. The 1919 team went undefeated (10-0) and unscored upon, outscoring its foes a combined 275-0. Bible notes his high expectations in his recruiting letter, stating "I am convinced that the team that beats us will be the champion of the Southwest."

Nobody did.

Bible closed his letter by stating "This is the motto for 1919: 'They Shall Not Pass.'"

"It's truly incredible," Allen said of the letter. "I grew up attending Texas A&M football games more so than any other sporting event. When I saw the letter and read it a couple times, it took a minute to sink in how important it was. The fact that he actually recruited my great grandfather to come back and play and be a part of that undefeated and unscored upon team is quite remarkable."
[+] EnlargeRichard Henry
Courtesy of Harrison J. AllenRichard "Chicken" Harrison was highly sought after by Texas A&M back in 1919.


Harrison graduated Texas A&M in 1920 and was among the first Aggies to earn a doctorate of veterinary medicine. He later became the team doctor for Texas A&M football for 25 years, which spanned the Aggies' 1939 national championship team and Paul "Bear" Bryant's coaching stint in College Station (Harrison is even named in Jim Dent's book, "The Junction Boys," about Bryant's legendary 10-day training camp in 1954).

History and tradition is a pillar of numerous college football programs across the country and those things are especially cherished at Texas A&M. Finding a tangible piece of that history has been particularly special for Allen.

"This letter was an incredible find for me," Allen said. "As a fifth-generation Aggie, I knew that my family had some remarkable ties to Texas A&M but this letter was a surprise."
The 2014 season marked only the third time since 2000 that the SEC champion didn't have at least one defensive lineman who earned first- or second-team All-SEC honors from the league's coaches.

It's a reminder that you better have difference-makers up front defensively if you're going to win a championship in this league.

The game has changed, for sure. Teams are scoring more points, and offenses are playing faster than ever before. The defensive numbers have suffered as a result, even in the SEC where defense was once king.

That doesn't diminish the importance of having dominant defensive linemen and dynamic finishers off the edge who can rush the quarterback. The SEC has had more of those players historically than any other conference, and it's the chief reason the SEC has won eight of the past 12 national championships.

So if you're looking for a position that will define the SEC in 2015, look no further than defensive line and pass-rusher.

[+] EnlargeMyles Garrett
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezTexas A&M freshman Myles Garrett finished second in the SEC with 11.5 sacks.
Alabama's Nick Saban has been a head coach in both the SEC and Big Ten and scouted players from all conferences while coaching the NFL's Miami Dolphins.

In his mind, one of the things that separates the SEC from other leagues is the "quality of the pass-rushers and the athleticism of the up-front people on defense."

In the past three drafts, 13 defensive linemen/pass-rushers from the SEC have been selected in the top two rounds. Florida's Dante Fowler and Missouri's Shane Ray are projected by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. to go in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.

More are on the way, too, especially when you look at the collection of defensive line talent that has already proven itself in the SEC and some of the young guns set to arrive this summer.

Two of the returning sack leaders in the SEC were both true freshmen a year ago.

Texas A&M's Myles Garrett was second in the league to Ray with 11.5 sacks as a freshman, and freshman Tennessee's Derek Barnett was just a few spots behind with 10 sacks. The amazing thing is that neither player was an early enrollee last year. They both reported in the summer without the benefit of spring practice and immediately started putting up huge numbers.

Already, first-year Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis is a believer, and he has been around his share of big-time defensive linemen.

"In our system, we want to be good at defensive end, and it didn't take us long to figure out that we have some pretty good talent there," Chavis said.

The Vols were thrilled to get Barnett a year ago and knew he was an excellent prospect, but coach Butch Jones had no idea the 6-foot-3, 267-pound Barnett would have the impact he did as a freshman. His 18 tackles for loss in SEC games led all players, and nobody else in the league had more than 12.

"He just took off and kept getting better," Jones said. "The best thing about him is that he's nowhere near as good as he's going to be."

Barnett is recovering from shoulder surgery and won't participate in spring drills. The same goes for senior Curt Maggitt, who finished with 11 sacks last season and gives the Vols the best returning sack tandem in the league. The 6-3, 251-pound Maggitt splits his time between outside linebacker and defensive end, but is at his best as an edge rusher.

Speaking of pass-rushers, Auburn's Carl Lawson appears to be fully recovered after missing last season with a torn ACL. He was a Freshman All-American two years ago and is the kind of disrupter up front that first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp needs if he's going to retool a defense that produced just 10 sacks in eight SEC games last season.

If you're looking for the SEC team with the deepest defensive line, that would be Alabama. A'Shawn Robinson can play nose or end in the Tide's 3-4 set and played his best football down the stretch a year ago. His junior season should be his best yet.

Junior end Jonathan Allen is another one on that Alabama defensive front with star potential. He had 11.5 tackles for loss last season, including 5.5 sacks, and may be ready to explode in 2015.

The same goes for Ole Miss tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who didn't have great numbers a year ago. But he's such a physical and athletic presence inside that his numbers don't begin to tell you what kind of player he is. Just turn on the tape and watch him collapse the pocket.

Prior to last season, an NFL scout suggested that no defensive lineman in the SEC had a better combination of size and talent than Mississippi State tackle Chris Jones, who says he's still an end at heart. The 6-5, 308-pound Jones might want to take a cue from Nkemdiche and fully embrace the move to tackle, because if he does, it's scary how good he can be.

Is it possible to assess the Year of the Defensive Lineman in the SEC without mentioning LSU? The Tigers have had eight defensive linemen drafted over the past four years, and that number will grow when Danielle Hunter hears his name called two months from now.

Next up in that pipeline is sophomore tackle Davon Godchaux, who led all LSU interior linemen with 42 total tackles last season as a true freshman. Godchaux didn't play his senior season of high school after injuring his knee. He has already grabbed first-year coordinator Kevin Steele's attention.

Georgia, which runs a 3-4 system under Jeremy Pruitt, is loaded with talent at outside linebacker. Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd are the veterans, but don't be surprised if sophomore Lorenzo Carter develops into the most feared pass-rusher on the team. He had 4.5 sacks as a true freshman.

And speaking of young guys, several incoming true freshmen are poised to make immediate impacts in 2015.

Among them: Byron Cowart at Auburn, Terry Beckner Jr. at Missouri, Trenton Thompson at Georgia, Daylon Mack at Texas A&M, CeCe Jefferson at Florida and Kahlil McKenzie at Tennessee.

There are sure to be more, too.

This is still a line-of-scrimmage league, and the talent on the defensive front in 2015 will be hard to miss.

SEC morning links

March, 12, 2015
Mar 12
9:00
AM ET
1. I think all of us assume the Alabama quarterback job will come down to Jake Coker versus the young trio of former ESPN 300 signal callers already on campus. But have we forgotten about Alec Morris, the one who’s been around the longest? Blake Sims was the veteran last year, and he wound up winning the job. And speaking of Sims, the former Crimson Tide star believes Morris is "going to factor big-time" in the much-anticipated position battle. We’ll all get our first look this Friday when Alabama opens spring practice, and though it will be front and center, the quarterback competition isn’t the only storyline headed into practice. There are plenty of other question marks facing the defending SEC champs this spring.

2. You probably don’t know every single athletic director in the SEC. I’m not even sure I do. But that doesn’t take away from how important they are to a football program. And that is why Missouri fans have to be ecstatic to hear Gary Pinkel’s endorsement for Mack Rhoades, the school’s new athletic director, especially considering Pinkel has had the same boss since he was hired in 2001. The two have already spoken, and you can bet the south end zone improvements at Faurot Field were brought up in conversation. For more on Rhoades and what he brings to Missouri, be sure to read this column from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It sure sounds like they found the right man for the job in Columbia.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

SEC morning links

March, 11, 2015
Mar 11
9:00
AM ET
It was 70 degrees in Atlanta on Tuesday. Happy days certainly are here again!
Not a tweet of the day, but colleague David Ching's Instagram video of LSU's receivers showing off their fancy footwork is impressive:

Roundtable: Most intriguing QB battles in SEC

March, 10, 2015
Mar 10
10:50
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Competition is the running theme in every spring practice, but it will be especially so for SEC quarterbacks over the next several weeks.

Today our SEC writers take a look at some of the most intriguing quarterback battles that will take place within the conference this spring and beyond.

Alex Scarborough: Georgia

Call me crazy, but who wins the job is irrelevant. What matters is that either Jacob Park or Brice Ramsey secures the position early and sets the tone for the rest of the season, because the last thing Georgia needs is a QB controversy. There’s so much going for the offense already. There’s Nick Chubb, the only running back in college football that could make you forget Todd Gurley. There’s Malcolm Mitchell, a top talent at receiver if he can stay healthy. And there’s the O-line, which could be the best in the SEC with four starters back. So whoever starts under center will have plenty to work with. Now it’s only a matter of settling on the best option.

Chris Low: Texas A&M

There's not much drama this spring in the Texas A&M quarterback camp. It's sophomore Kyle Allen and ... well, that's it. Kenny Hill transferred after being all the rage in Aggieland to start last season, but Allen was the one who finished the season at quarterback, going 3-2 as the starter. He's got a big arm and showed uncanny presence in the pocket for a true freshman. But it would be premature to pencil in the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Allen as Texas A&M's starter in 2015. Kyler Murray is slated to be on campus this summer, and he arrives as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect in the country -- assuming he doesn't opt for pro baseball. There's some thought that Murray could be a first-round selection in June's baseball draft. If so, he's got another big decision to make after picking Texas A&M over Texas in a fierce recruiting battle. Stay tuned because the real drama surrounding the Aggies' quarterback job will heat up this summer.

David Ching: Ole Miss

Ole Miss is intriguing not so much because of the on-field competition, but because of Chad Kelly's presence in the position battle. I suppose it’s the tabloid element of the story that interests me. Prior to his arrest following a bar fight late last year, Kelly was already viewed as a wild card because of his unceremonious exit from Clemson. Hugh Freeze stood by the junior college transfer -- Kelly led East Mississippi Community College to the NJCAA title last year, passing for 3,906 yards, 47 touchdowns and eight interceptions -- saying Kelly deserves a second chance. But can Kelly keep his act together and also outperform Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade? It will be fascinating to watch it play out.

Edward Aschoff: LSU

The Tigers are in desperate need of competent play at quarterback, and just about everyone will be keeping a close eye on Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris. No one has any clue which way this one will go. You have Jennings, who basically limped his way through 2014, and Harris, who arrived as a star recruit but couldn’t stay on the field. Both have shown flashes -- maybe Harris a bit more -- but both were wildly inconsistent and have a long way to go with their development. However, if one can stand out and transform into a legitimate passing threat, LSU’s offense -- and entire team -- could be dangerous in 2015.

Greg Ostendorf: Florida

Don’t underestimate this battle. This could be a career-defining decision for Jim McElwain in just his first year at Florida. Fans are tired of subpar quarterback play, and that’s part of the reason McElwain was hired in the first place. On one side, Treon Harris came in and gave the Gators a spark last season. He’s a true dual-threat guy who has more game experience. On the other side, there’s Will Grier, the former ESPN 300 signal-caller who better fits what McElwain wants to do on offense. Both will be given an equal shot at the job, and I don’t expect a starter to be named until the fall. But what makes it so intriguing and why I think it’s the most intriguing battle in the SEC is McElwain. He has a proven track record with quarterbacks, and both Harris and Grier will benefit from his arrival. Who will benefit the most?

Sam Khan Jr.: Alabama

Alabama’s quarterback battle fascinates me in large part because of how it played out a season ago. Jake Coker transferred into the program during the offseason and before he even stepped foot on campus, there seemed to be widespread speculation that he was the successor to AJ McCarron. Then an interesting thing happened -- the battle played out, Blake Sims eventually won the job and had an impressive season. Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin were methodical in that process, so I expect that to be the case again. Coker’s certainly the favorite again this year and has the experience edge, being a senior and the only one out of the group that includes himself, Blake Barnett, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Alec Morris to have thrown a collegiate pass. That said, he has thrown only 10 more passes against SEC competition than his competitors, so while he has an experience edge, it’s not an overwhelming one.
Fifteen practices isn't a lot. Ask any coach and they'd want more.

For Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Kentucky and LSU, the time crunch known as spring practice has already begun. And by the end of this week, all but Florida and Mississippi State from the SEC will have joined them in trying to get better before the practice fields must be vacated and the offseason grinds back to a halt.

As always, some programs feel more of a sense of urgency than others. It all depends on your returning roster and how your season ended.

With that said, here are three teams from the SEC that have the most work to do between now and the end of spring practice:

Alabama: Alabama is near the top of many preseason top 25 polls for two primary reasons: talent and coaching. The fact that Nick Saban is among the best coaches in college football is undebatable. The fact that he and his staff sign the best high school prospects is unquestioned. But while those things are extremely valuable, they're far from the entire equation. No, the bell cow of the SEC faces more than its fair share of questions this spring. No one knows who the starting quarterback will be. Derrick Henry is enormous and quite talented, but he's never had to be a feature back before. Absent Amari Cooper, it's hard to say what the receiving corps will look like. And that's just the offense, never mind a defense that's struggling to find its identity after ending last season on a poor note. The secondary is one giant mystery without Landon Collins and the linebackers are without their leader in veteran Trey DePriest. In all, 13 starters must be replaced. To get back to the national championship, it's going to take a new cast of characters and likely a new identity, one that must be forged early in the offseason so it has time to take root.

South Carolina: To say that Steve Spurrier is rebuilding this offseason would be an understatement. Gone are his leading passer (Dylan Thompson), his leading rusher (Mike Davis), his second-leading receiver (Nick Jones) and his best offensive lineman (AJ Cann). He has a new defensive coordinator (Jon Hoke), and at last count 10 scholarship players had left the program since the end of last season, including enigmatic receiver Shaq Roland. So after posting the league's worst defense in 2014 and stumbling to a 7-6 finish, it's safe to say that change is on the way. But that doesn't mean anyone is expecting a typical “rebuilding year” with lowered expectations. No, if that were the case, Spurrier wouldn't have inked a 31-man signing class that included six junior college prospects, one prep school product, one late qualifier and one transfer. With so many holes to fill and so many newcomers expected to contribute, South Carolina has to hit the ground running and accelerate the learning curve.

Texas A&M: It's hard to find a team more perpetually stuck on the bubble lately than Kevin Sumlin's Aggies. They're loaded with talent and have plenty of flash, to be sure. Just look at Johnny Football and Kenny Trill in back-to-back years. But beyond the headlines and media attention is a program that has fallen from 11-2 to 9-4 to 8-5 over the last three seasons. In other words, it's time to put up or shut up. It's time to get off the bubble already, whatever the end result may be. Taking the next step to become a contender won't be easy, of course, and it will take a remarkable spring to get there. Another quarterback competition is in order and the defense needs to be completely re-imagined. And it's the latter part of that sentiment that's the most troubling. Because while John Chavis has a history of being an excellent defensive coordinator, he's got a lot to overcome to get Texas A&M on track. Since 2012, the Aggies rank 101st nationally in total defense. Couple that with a declining record over the same period of time and you're looking at a team that may need a culture change this spring.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — John Chavis’ arrival at Texas A&M was met by much fervor among the Aggie faithful, who’ve long yearned for a defense reminiscent of the 1990s Wrecking Crew units but haven’t found someone to provide one worthy of the throwback nickname.

Aggies everywhere hope Chavis, with his two decades-plus experience of coaching SEC defenses, most recently at LSU, can be the one who does it and rectifies the most glaring weakness on this Texas A&M squad, which has become more synonymous with high-scoring offensive football in recent years. Chavis' track record suggests he can.

On Thursday night, the former LSU defensive coordinator met with the media for the first time since he was hired to be the Aggies’ new defensive boss and discussed his new home, his early impressions of Texas A&M’s defense through three spring practices, his new colleagues and the emotions involved with leaving LSU, where he spent the past six seasons.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Williams
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezNew defensive coordinator John Chavis says the Texas A&M defense has talent but lacks confidence.
What drew “The Chief” to Aggieland? In a word: resources.

“What wouldn’t be appealing?” Chavis said. “I mean, we’re talking about a university, look what’s going on — look at what’s going on with the facilities. This is a university that’s wanting to invest, not just wanting, but has invested in its program. If you look at that stadium it’s a place where you can recruit, there’s no doubt about that; there’s a wealth of talent in Texas, so why wouldn’t you want to be a part of this program at Texas A&M?

“To be quite honest with you we’re building to win championships. That's what it's all about. I want to be a part of a championship program. There’s no question you can win them here at Texas A&M and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

Chavis, who retained all three Texas A&M full-time defensive assistants that were on staff prior to his arrival – Terry Price, Mark Hagen and Terry Joseph – said the chemistry with his new staff is “really good” and that they’re “excellent football coaches.” The talent needed on the roster to succeed exists in Chavis’ mind; the biggest thing he said he will work on is the unit’s confidence. The Aggies ranked last in the SEC in yards per game allowed and rushing defense each of the last two seasons.

“We’ve got talent, there’s no question about that,” Chavis said. “The first thing we need to do is get our guys confident that they’re good enough to play and good enough to win in the SEC. Once they feel that way — and I think we’re well on the road to being there — they’re going to be able to compete. Sure, they had some struggles. That was last year and we’re not going to talk about last year. We’ve got some core principles that we believe in and we’re going to apply those and have applied them and we think it'll get us to the situation where we're going to be very, very competitive.

“Now we've got a lot of work to do, don't kid yourself. I'm not kidding myself. But the talent is here and we're going to put the work in.”

Leaving LSU wasn’t an easy decision, and Chavis acknowledged that difficulty considering the relationships built in his time in Baton Rouge.

“The emotions are with those kids,” Chavis said of the Tigers. “I love those kids. But there came a time when you have to make a decision and you have do what's best for you. And I've coached this game for 38 years or so and to be quite honest with you, I haven't always made decisions solely based on what was best for me. But this was a great opportunity that I couldn't turn down. It's a great situation, certainly it's one where I hope I can finish my career. If I get eight or 10 good years here, if I can go that long, it would be great.”

Chavis also had positive things to say about LSU coach Les Miles.

“Listen, I love Coach Miles too,” Chavis said. “He was a great guy to work for. We have a great relationship and it'll always be that kind of relationship. But the toughest thing was leaving those kids. The good thing is, I have a great group of young men [at Texas A&M]. And we're learning to love and care about each other. We're learning to trust each other. That's how it has to happen. They've got to trust me. I've got to trust them. And that happens over time and we're learning that now and Texas A&M feels like home.”

There is a legal battle going on between Chavis and LSU over a $400,000 buyout the Tigers claim he owes for terminating his contract. Chavis declined to elaborate on the topic, noting that “There’s not anything I can say that will help the matter. Got a great law team handling it. They’ll get it worked out. My focus is on coaching football.” He said it hasn’t been a distraction and his focus is on his current task: improving the Aggies’ defense.

“Obviously, there is SEC talent here — there’s no question about that,” he said. “We've got to help them get better and that’s what coaching is all about. You can take young talent and make it better and I’m excited about coaching a young football team.”

SEC morning links

March, 6, 2015
Mar 6
9:00
AM ET
Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

video

National recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert breaks down movers in, newcomers to and the top 10 of the updated ESPN Junior 300.

The education of Kyle Allen

March, 5, 2015
Mar 5
10:00
AM ET
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- August 16, 2014 was the hardest day in Kyle Allen's young Texas A&M career.

After enrolling early and spending seven months competing with sophomore Kenny Hill, gunning for one singular goal -- a chance to be the Day 1 starter for the Aggies in 2014 -- the true freshman was dealt a gut punch from Kevin Sumlin and Jake Spavital.

The Aggies' head coach and offensive coordinator pulled Allen into an office to deliver news he wasn't expecting to hear.

[+] EnlargeKyle Allen
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTexas A&M's Kyle Allen is ready to seize the starting quarterback job this season, no matter who is there to compete with him.
"They said, 'Kenny is going to start the first game,'" Allen recalls. "'You’re going to have a chance to win it back, so don’t bow out right now. You’ve got to stay in this.'"

Emotions flooded. The 18-year-old, in search for a sympathetic ear, reached out to family and friends back in Arizona. One of the phone calls he made was to his longtime private quarterback coach, Dennis Gile.

"I've never heard Kyle down; he broke down to me, crying on the phone," Gile said. "I didn't know how to take it because he's like my little brother. He's really close to me. To hear your little brother cry for the first time, when I know how good he is and how much he wanted it, it was hard for myself. I was getting choked up talking to him."

Gile urged Allen to not let the emotions of the disappointment affect him moving forward, nor let those emotions be seen by coaches and teammates. "Practice like you're the starter, every day," Gile said, and "your time is going to come."

Allen followed that advice, and 10 weeks later, it came true: He was named the starter, replacing Hill before the Aggies' home game against Louisiana-Monroe. Now, Allen begins a sophomore season with five starts under his belt and much promise as the Aggies look to trek up the SEC West standings in 2015.

From the moment he stepped on campus, teammates and coaches praised Allen's approach to his craft. Several attribute his ability to wrangle the starting job from Hill in midseason to those traits.

"The approach that Kyle has taken since Day 1, even when Kenny won the battle at the beginning of the year, [Allen] came in every single day and kept putting the work in," Spavital said. "He was wanting to get better every single day, and naturally when you see a kid take that approach to the game and the way he works, you are naturally going to see him increase and get better each day."

"He is always up here watching film before practice," current backup quarterback Conner McQueen said. "Every day Coach Spav will talk about things when we watch film, and Kyle will have seen it once or twice already. He is always up here, just doing the right things, being the first one in the weight room and doing extra. I really think his preparation, not only this year but starting last spring, put him in a great position to succeed."

Allen's starting debut vs. Louisiana-Monroe was, in many ways, forgettable. The Aggies were more than 30-point favorites but squeaked by with a 21-16 win. The offense only managed a meager 243 yards, Allen was 13-for-28 passing for 106 yards with a touchdown and an interception. With a road trip to Auburn looming, Allen's debut didn't exactly provide an overflow of optimism.

"I came in nervous, I’m not going to lie," Allen said. "Even though it’s Louisiana-Monroe, you’re playing in front of 105,000 people. You step on the field, you look around and there are people everywhere. I come from a high school where I am lucky if a thousand people come to my game."

Gile, who was on the sideline at Kyle Field for Allen's debut, implored Allen later that week to talk to his teammates before the Auburn game, to lead. Before the Aggies took the field, junior defensive end Julien Obioha requested Allen do the same. There was a sense the group needed to hear from its quarterback, even if he was a true freshman making his second start. He did and the team responded to Allen's words and energy before kickoff, exploding to a 35-point first half and hanging on for a dramatic 41-38 win.

After losses to Missouri and LSU, Allen closed out the season on a high note, winning offensive MVP honors in the Aggies' 45-37 win against West Virginia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. He bounced back from an early pick-six to put together a 294-yard, four-touchdown performance which included a dazzling rushing touchdown.

This spring Allen is not pushing anyone; he's the incumbent, with only McQueen to push him. The program awaits the fate of its five-star quarterback signee, Kyler Murray, who signed a letter of intent in February and would be Allen's primary competition upon arrival.

Murray, 42-0 as a starter with three state championships at the highest level of Texas high school football, is also a baseball star and is finishing up his senior year at Allen High School. A decision on whether he goes to Aggieland or signs with the professional baseball team that drafts him (he's projected by several experts to be a possible first-round selection) won't come until the summer.

Either way, Allen -- who couldn't possibly have missed all the hand-wringing over Murray's decision leading up to national signing day or the deserved universal praise he received for his long list of prep accomplishments -- sounds like a focused, confident competitor ready to welcome the Gatorade National Player of the Year.

"He deserves it, the kid’s never lost a game in his life. He’s a Texas legend. I know everyone here is from Texas and I’m from Arizona, so I don’t get that love yet," Allen said with a smile and a laugh. "So, he’s going to step in, he’s going to put the work in just like I did, but it’s going to be a fun competition."
video

National recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to discuss which programs most need success in the coming months to both establish momentum and keep competitors at bay.

SEC morning links

March, 5, 2015
Mar 5
9:00
AM ET
A day after Auburn's Corey Grant burned up the track at Auburn's pro day, another former SEC player who didn't attend the NFL combine also helped his cause. Mississippi State's Matt Wells ran a 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash, the best of any player at the Bulldogs' pro day on Wednesday. State was one of three SEC schools to hold a pro day on Wednesday, along with Arkansas and Texas A&M. The Aggies' pro day lacked the fanfare of a year ago when Johnny Manziel worked out for scouts -- particularly with star tackle Cedric Ogbuehi sidelined by a knee injury -- but a dozen former A&M players still took advantage of the opportunity to show what they could do. Likewise, 16 former Razorbacks -- including All-SEC honorees Martrell Spaight and Trey Flowers -- showed off for scouts at Arkansas' workout on Wednesday afternoon.
  • Another offseason, another proposed rule change that has spread offense coaches on the defensive. Auburn's Gus Malzahn spoke out this week on the possible new rule that would reduce the yards an offensive lineman can move downfield on a pass play from 3 yards to 1. The change, Malzahn said, would stifle offensive innovation, like his team's “pop pass,” which simulates a run before throwing downfield. Malzahn isn't the only SEC coach to criticize the possible change. Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze is also against the new rule, saying officials should simply enforce the perfectly reasonable rule that is already on the books. That, writes CBS Sports blogger Jerry Hinnen, is the key point in this debate. Perhaps offenses are given too much leeway today by not effectively enforcing the rules governing linemen downfield. Doing so might prevent the sport from having to rewrite the rulebook.
Around the SEC
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Texas A&M hosted a pro day at its team's indoor training facility Wednesday in College Station, Texas.

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